The sea holds a lot of significance to tāngata Māori and ngā tāngata o Aotearoa in general! In NZ we are surrounded by the ocean, our rivers and waterways all lead to the sea. We use the sea for many recreational activities in our life but importantly it holds life and that life nourishes and sustains us.
My name is Beth and I’m on a mission to learn, grow and share my love and understanding of all things Māori.
Ngā rauemi a Poi Princess
Matariki is the Māori name for the group of stars known as the Pleiades. Roughly around the month of June these stars are more visible to the human eye, especially before dawn. This time is very important and signifies the Māori new year.
In the past Matariki signalled the end of harvest. The pataka would be full and this meant the time had come for the ground and the people to rest and regenerate. People would share their harvest with family and friends, speak of their passed loved ones and as with any Māori tradition sing and dance. Other traditions included kite making and flying, arts and crafts and gathering for wananga. Activities to occupy the mind and hands over the cold winter months.
These days I believe Matariki is becoming more widely acknowledged and we seek to reconnect with old customs and traditions but we are also creating and developing a new appreciation and new traditions for this special time of year, here in Aotearoa.
My love for pukapuka
Last year, at this time, tāku tamāhine and I read the Matariki books I now stock. Each one we enjoyed and learnt from. They all proved their value in different ways. They especially got me thinking about whānau, values and traditions.
One particular book Matariki by Melanie Drewery played a big part in what we were personally going through as a family… in the story they explain that during Matariki they sometimes sang waiata that sounded sad, these were for people they had loved that had passed away. In May last year I lost my Dad suddenly and my eldest daughter had her first experience of death. We cried and talked everything through and she amazed me with her compassion and resiliently. One particular passage of the story, she immediately related it to what was going on in our lives and she led a conversation about singing songs for Grandad and keeping his memory alive. This was something that touched me very deeply. A young child coming out with such beautiful and thoughtful words and understanding of such a sad time.
I have to say, I really love books, I have a real passion for books. They open the world to so many thoughts, possibilities and understanding. I especially love the way they can be used for so many purposes education, provocation, imagination. The books about Matariki particularly helped us on our journey of reflection and acceptance.
Our New Traditions
During this time I had been considering what new traditions I wanted to encourage in our young whānau. I felt it was important for us to remain positive and to count our blessings. I particularly wanted to promote an attitude of gratitude in our whare…So the idea that called to me was to start “He tīa whakawhetai” (a blessing jar).
We washed jars at home, removed the stickers and spent time decorating our tīa whakawhetai. We used stickers and pens. At the end of the day (usually at dinner time) we chatted as a whānau and we took turns to say at least one thing we felt grateful for. This was then written on a piece of paper and added into the jar.
To be honest as the time went by our daughter wanted to put notes in the jar ALL the time! I introduced the tīa (jar) itself in te reo Māori to increase some vocab but to begin with we wrote things for the jar in English. My daughter and I have had around a year of this tradition and I feel positive about it. I intend on reading our years worth of blessings as part of our Matariki celebration this year.
Incorporating more te reo Māori in our whare
My partner has since decided to join the party and I decided it would be fun to increase our kupu Māori as a whanau at the same time. So we have started writing just one kupu in te reo Māori for our tīa whakawhetai. We are all learning and I think it will help us in many different ways.
We started the other day and my eldest daughter who is coming up 5 in a few months decided she wanted to write the kupu herself underneath my kupu. She is excited about writing and literacy at the moment. This is a great activity to encourage her to consider the kupu Māori and if we don’t know it we look it up in the dictionary. If she wants to write the word or draw a picture to go along with it, this will further support her learning in a meaningful way.
In New Zealand we usually celebrate our new year when the annual calendar begins in January.
Thinking about Matariki helps me to consider how different life would be living by the moon and its phases like our ancestors. I find it intriguing but at the same time so natural, well before we had all the modern day things we have now we listened to the earth and what it told us. Matariki is a wonderful time to find our balance in a busy world and reconnect with Papatūānuku and at the same time ground ourselves.
Furthermore, it’s a time that feels natural to stay snug and warm, to eat, to laugh, to sing, to catch up with our friends and whānau. Some downtime just like the earth has, to reflect and regenerate for the new year and all its wonderful fresh and new happenings.
Whatever Matariki means to you and your whānau, I hope you are healthy and warm.
I will close with Ira Mitchell-Kirks pikitia and some words from Libby Hakaraia’s book Matariki the Māori new year…
Mā te whetūrangi o Matariki, e tiaki mai, e manaaki mai i a koe,
I koutou rānei, mō te tau e taka mai ana.
May the gentle light of Matariki guide and inspire you all this year.
Feel free to kōrero about your experiences and this kaupapa in the comments.
Ngā mihi mahana,
Some useful Pānuitanga
If you would like to continue with the grateful theme you can share the love and make gratitude cards for Matariki. Get more details from the “All right?” website here.
The Te reo Māori classroom offers a free printable booklet, with pictures and explanations for each star in the Matariki cluster for children to learn about and colour. Click here for the link.
Te Papa have some awesome free printable booklets on their website with information on Matariki, Māori words to increase your vocab and more resources to help teachers and students learn about Matariki and link to curriculum in classrooms.